Implanted follows a pretty traditional sci-fi premise to its usual end: Sarah (Michelle Girolami) is one of the first test subjects for L.E.X.X., an experimental, Siri-like AI chip. The virtual assistant monitors Sarah’s health stats, reports the weather and encourages her to murder people. That last one was not part of the brochure.
Through conversations with the voice in her head, we learn Sarah only agreed to the L.E.X.X. test to raise funds to help care for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Sarah is a regular woman who tells L.E.X.X. that she’s an optimist despite it all. The machine sorely tests that disposition as it exerts greater and greater control over Sarah’s cognitive functions to achieve its own ends, which more or less involve removing any impediment to its ability to grow more intelligent.
Girolami runs the one-woman show; a majority of the film is just her talking to herself, with the digital voice of L.E.X.X. added as an internal monologue. It’s played for dramatic tension in scenes where Sarah is being forced to confront people, sure, but most of the movie is still just a woman talking to herself on the streets of New York and, later, Paris, where they were able to film on location. The relationship — if you can call it that — between Sarah and L.E.X.X. takes some surprising turns in the film’s short 90-minute running time.
Unfortunately, those few interesting plot threads aren’t quite enough to make Implanted the kind of can’t-turn-away thriller it clearly aspires to be. The fact is that the majority of the film is just Sarah talking to herself: it’s a theoretically interesting creative choice that also isn’t interesting to watch. Honestly, it would work well in comic-book form, but as a film, Implanted struggles to be engaging. Sarah’s ultimate choice regarding L.E.X.X. is also, unfortunately, the most obvious resolution to their conflict. Girolami is good as Sarah, but the film never achieves more than a monotonous tone.
At least it’s gorgeous. Director Fabien Dufils and his crew beautifully capture New York and Paris. The film never looks or sounds low-budget even if it doesn’t go anywhere particularly novel with its evil-AI plotline. It feels like a blender of other, better scary-AI stories put into a single film. On paper, Implanted probably sounded great, but something about its translation into a film narrative leaves something to be desired. Tension and humor, I guess.